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Old Fashioned Beef Barley Stew

This rich and comforting Old-Fashioned Beef Barley Stew is the ultimate comfort food. A combination of tender beef, hearty barley, and vibrant veggies are all elevated by a splash of robust red wine and slow-cooked to add the perfect depth of flavor.

This stew is ideal for casual family dinners, game days, or those chilly nights when a bowl of warmth and flavor is just what you crave!

Ladle full of beef barley soup from large pot.

Lately, I don’t have much time to cook. The days seem to go by so quickly. Even when I’m not working, there is always something to be done around the house, some errand to go to, or some appointment. Of course, this leaves little time for cooking during the week.

I’m happy to report that this beef barley stew was a big winner in our house this week. I made a lot, and the leftovers were gone within one day. That’s always a good indicator!

Serve this with a big salad and some warm bread for the family, and call it dinner! And if you like barley stews/soups, be sure also to try my mushroom barley soup.

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Why You’ll LOVE This Soup!

This beef barley stew is the perfect one-pot meal with the ideal blend of tender beef, plump barley, and fresh vegetables.

The extended, gentle cooking enhances the depth of flavor and tenderizes the meat – similar to the long, slow cooking of our authentic Italian braciole).

Adding red wine to deglaze the pan enhances flavor by infusing it with complex, aromatic notes. It also helps to release the browned bits of meat and vegetables after sautéing. The brown bits of food on the bottom of the pot are called fond. Fond enhances the flavor of any dish.

This stew often tastes even more amazing the next day as the flavors meld. So, you’ll have a delicious meal ready for a quick and easy lunch or dinner option.

Ingredients Notes

Ingredients for beef barley stew.

Beef (Chuck Roast or similar cut): Buying precut beef cubes is a big time saver. Precut beef stew meat or cubes are sometimes large, so consider cutting them into smaller pieces.

Barley: Be sure not to use instant barley, which will not hold up to the low and slow cooking method. Pearled or hulled barley are needed.

Red Wine (optional): This is highly recommended since it adds depth and a subtle fruity note. The red wine also is used for deglazing and capturing all the flavors from the pot. You can also deglaze the pan with a bit of beef stock.

How to Make (Step by Step)

Step 1: To prepare this beef stew, start by patting the beef cubes dry. Then, season them with salt and pepper. Then, in a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the beef cubes until they’re browned on all sides.

Step 2: You may need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. When it’s finished, please set the beef aside.

Removing browned beef from large pot.

Removing beef from pot after browning.

Adding wine to browned vegetables.

Deglazing sautéed vegetables with red wine.

Step 3: Next, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in the same pot until they soften, which should take about 4 or 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Deglaze the pot by adding red wine and scraping up the flavorful bits from the bottom, letting the wine reduce by half. You can also add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and cook/stir until it has deepened in color.

Step 4: Return the seared beef to the pot and add diced tomatoes, beef broth, barley, bay leaves, and thyme—season with more salt and pepper.

Step 5: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and let it cook for approximately 1-1.5 hours, adjusting the time depending on the type of barley used, until the beef and barley become tender.

Adding all ingredients to large pot.

Add beef and remaining ingredients back to the pot.

Simmering soup in large white pot.

Bring mixture to boil and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours.

Step 6: Before serving, remove the bay leaves and any rosemary sprig, adjust the seasonings as needed (I sometimes add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce), and garnish with fresh parsley. This hearty beef stew is ready to enjoy! Serve with plenty of bread.

Tips for Making

Brown the Meat: Browning the meat first adds depth and richness to the flavor.

Start with a Solid Base: Use homemade stock or broth whenever possible. It’s richer and more flavorful than store-bought versions. If using store-bought broth, choose low-sodium so you can control the salt level

Sauté Vegetables: Don’t skimp or skip the sautéing of the vegetables (ie, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery (often called a mirepoix) as this step releases their flavors and forms the foundation of many soups.

Season Gradually Add herbs and spices in stages. Start with a base layer, let it simmer, then adjust as needed.

Simmer Slowly: Let the soup simmer gently rather than boiling vigorously. This ensures the meat becomes tender and the flavors meld together.

Pot of beef barley soup with two white bowls of soup nearby and bread slices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to cook barley before adding it to the soup?

No, the barley is typically added uncooked and the cooking process lends a thickness to the stew that often is more pronounced the day after it is cooked.

Why does my beef and barley soup have no flavor?

Beef and barley soup/stew benefits greatly from aromatics like onions, as well as acids like red wine or tomatoes and tomato paste, which add a bright note. Cooking long and slow also deepens the flavor.

Should I soak barley before adding it to the soup?

There is no need to soak the barley before adding it to beef barley stew as the soup cooks long and low, ensuring that the barley it perfectly cooked.

What is fond in cooking?

In cooking, “fond” refers to the browned bits of food that stick to the bottom of a pan when ingredients like meat are seared or sautéed. These bits are rich in flavor due to the Maillard reaction and can enhance dishes significantly. To utilize fond, chefs often deglaze the pan by adding liquid, such as wine or broth, and scraping up the browned bits, creating a flavorful base for sauces, soups, and gravies.

What is pearled barley vs hulled barley?

Pearl barley is processed to remove the outer husk, while hulled barley retains the bran layer and germ. Pearl barley is softer and milder in flavor, while hulled barley is chewier and more nutritious.

Pearl barley cooks faster (25-30 minutes) than hulled barley (40-50 minutes). Other barley varieties include barley grits, barley flakes, and barley flour.

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📖 Recipe

Ladle full of beef barley soup from large white pot.

Old Fashioned Beef Barley Stew

Rich and hearty old-fashioned beef barley stew, brimming with tender meat and wholesome grains, is a comforting classic perfect for warming up chilly days!
4.94 from 15 votes
Author: Marie
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cups
Calories 214 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 2 tablespoons oil divided
  • 2 pounds beef (cubed and no larger than 3/4 inch) See Note 1
  • 1 teaspoon salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 3 stalks celery sliced
  • 2 large carrots sliced or diced (or the equivalent in sliced baby carrots)
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed and minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine or 3 ounces tomato paste (See Note 2)
  • 1 cup diced tomatos canned is fine
  • 6 cups beef broth up to 8 cups or more (see Note 3)
  • 1 cup barley hulled or pearl (uncooked); don't use instant
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 springs fresh herbs thyme and rosemary suggested; or 1/2 teaspoon dried (see Note 4)
  • fresh parsley garnish
  • Worcestershire sauce a few splashes (optional for more flavor)

Instructions
 

  • Pat beef cubes dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef cubes and sear/brown on all sides. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan if necessary. Remove beef and set aside.
  • Add more oil if needed in the same pot and sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until softened (about 4 or 5 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  • Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping up the flavorful bits from the bottom. Continue heating until the wine is reduced by half.
  • Return the beef to the pot. Add the diced tomatoes, beef broth, barley, bay leaves, and thyme/rosemary—season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it simmer for about 1-1.5 hours (less if you used pearl barley; longer if you used hulled barley), or until the beef and barley are tender.
  • Adjust seasonings, remove bay leaves and herb sprigs, and serve hot. Garnish with fresh parsley. Add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce if desired.

Notes

Note 1: Searing the meat provides a lot of flavor in the soup, so take advantage of this. Also, some of the most recommended cuts for beef barley soup include chuck roast or shoulder, stew meat, round or rump roast, or brisket.
Note 2: If you don’t want to use red wine, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste (half of a six-ounce can) in its place, stir well, and cook until it deepens slightly in color. If you want to amp up the flavor, use both by deglazing with red wine first and then adding the tomato paste and cooking and stirring until it deepens slightly in color. 
Note 3: Start with less broth, but add more depending on how thick you like your soup. Also, the leftover soup will thicken as the barley absorbs the liquid. If you are making this ahead, we recommend cooking the barley separately, undercooking the barley, or having more beef stock on hand to thin the soup. 
Note 4: If you use rosemary, it is suggested you use only a small sprig as it is potent. 
Refrigeration: Store the soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Freezing: If you plan to freeze the soup, consider leaving the barley slightly undercooked so it doesn’t become too mushy when reheated. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stove, adding additional broth if needed.
Sure, here are adapted instructions for making the recipe in both a slow cooker and an Instant Pot:
Slow Cooker Instructions:
Follow the instructions in the recipe card above until step 5, and then add everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until tender. Adjust seasonings, remove herbs, garnish, and serve.
Instant Pot 
Use the sauté function to sear beef (seasoned well with salt and pepper), remove to a clean plate, and set aside. Use the sauté function to cook veggies until softened, and then deglaze the pot with the red wine. Return beef to the pot, and add tomatoes, broth, barley, and herbs. Cover and pressure cook on high for 25-30 mins. Use the natural release for 10 mins, then the quick release. Adjust seasonings, remove herbs, garnish, and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 21gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 704mgPotassium: 529mgFiber: 4gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2086IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 47mgIron: 3mg
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12 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I made this and the broth/base was incredibly rich and delicious. I prefer more veggies and might add some parsnips and/or potatoes as well as some leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or swiss chard.

  2. Recipe says add a sprig of thyme, then at the end says to remove the rosemary(?) I believe the picture shows both!🥴

    1. Corrected – thank you! You can use a combination of herbs or one of them. Remove after cooking, and if you use rosemary, I suggest only a tiny sprig, as it is quite potent.

  3. 5 stars
    Had a chill in the air today and what better to have for dinner than Beef Barley Soup! Have been making this for a few years now and I absolutely love it! Tried and true go to for a cool fall/cold winter day!

  4. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe several times and it is excellent. I use leftover steak or roast. I like barley so use 3/4 cup with 9 cups of broth. I sometimes substitute spaghetti sauce for the tomato sauce. Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    I just made this for dinner tonight and it was so good! I added a little extra barley and a few sprinkles of basil for some extra flavor and it was delicious! Thanks for the recipe!!

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